The Apple Cider Orchard
APPLE HILL CIDER was born in 2015.
An old apple orchard was present on the farm back in the 1800's and today over close to 200 apple trees exist on the property from the original orchard and its offspring (150+) and a small new planting (40) . Years and hundreds of hours were spent reclaiming them from overgrowth and renovating with extensive pruning.
Fall of 2015 brought the first harvest from 74 renovated apple trees in conjunction with Shacksbury Cider's Lost Apple Project. The apples on every tree were different with no two trees producing the same fruit. Apples varied in size from 1" to 3". Colors were bright red, dark red, olive green, bright green, various yellows, some were russeted. Shapes varied from round, oval, pear shaped and weird. Each tree also produced a different flavor profile having different degrees of sweetness, tartness, acid, tannins and aromas. 163 bushels of apples were gathered and pressed producing 450 gallons of cider. The fresh raw cider was then turned over to Shacksbury Cider who dedicated one of their fermentation tanks using the naturally present yeasts in the juice from our farm here in Rochester, Vt. Using natural yeasts is a slower process of fermentation than introducing commercial yeasts and in 2016 Shacksbury bottled 200 cases of Apple Hill Farmhouse Cider with 6.5% alcohol content and say it turned out to be one of their best. Their description of the Apple Hill Farmhouse Cider reads as Nose: honey, toasted pine nuts, musk, round mouthfeel with notes of buckwheat honey. Shacksbury Cider is known for pioneering the "Lost Apple Project" and producing hard ciders from wild and lost varieties of heirloom apples.
Back on the farm we continued to renovate & reclaim more apple trees and planted 40 heirloom varieties and little known lost varieties of apple trees known for their use in cider making back in the late 1800's in New England. New trees planted are grown on standard size rootstock that will grow to match the size & hardiness of the original trees found on Apple Hill land. These are not the puny dwarf or semi-dwarf trees found in nurseries or used in todays commercial production. All the apple trees found or newly planted at Apple Hill Farm are full size growing 25 to 35 feet or more. Some existing trees are currently over 40'. Newly planted trees are already 6' or more tall and some will produce apples this year.
In 2017 we harvested another 167 bushels which converted to 450 gallons of hard cider which Shacksbury produced 150 cases of 16 oz cans under the Apple Hill Cider Brand.
Future plans are to continue planting new trees on 3 acres of hillside and 20 acres of former hayfield alongside 1/4 mile of riverfront.
Through the years trees in the original Apple Orchard produced offspring that have sprung up throughout the property amounting to over 150 apple trees of various sizes some approaching 40 feet.. Apple varieties in the original orchard are unknown. Varieties of the 150 offspring trees are also unknown as they have grown from seeds rather than grafts. Therefore all of the apple trees are classified as "wild" or "Lost" apple trees with no two producing similar fruit in flavor, fragrance, sweetness, tannins, acidity, size, color or shape.
Back in the 1800's annual harvests & cider production would be different from year to year depending not only on weather but not all trees provide fruit every year as some are biannual. Therefore old time ciders would taste different each year depending on what mother nature provided. Old time hard ciders were totally different than todays mass produced always the same usually sweet ciders enhanced for consistency and made from concentrates or desert varieties. Apple Hill Cider is also fermented using natural occurring yeasts formed on the fruit from our farm which adds another dimension and flavor profile.